Ship 25 being stacked at Starbase in Boca Chica, Texas.

Elon Musk predicts over a thousand Starship launches per year

In an interview at the 74th International Astronautical Congress hosted by Clay Mowry, President of the International Astronautical Foundation, in Baku, Azerbaijan, Elon Musk was asked about his predictions and thoughts for Starship IFT-2, future Starship development, and Falcon 9 operations.

In answering questions about Starship IFT-2 Musk revealed that if both Ship 25 and Booster 9 survive stage separation with the new hot-staging ring the flight is successful, he also suggested that if Ship 25 survives separation it has a good chance of reaching atmospheric re-entry. One of the improvements mentioned by Musk was improved engine isolation on Booster 9 compared to Booster 7 in case of an 'energetic event' in the engine section.

Musk was also asked about the close and near future of Starship and revealed that Starship would have to precisely land after surviving re-entry before attempting to be caught by Mechazilla on the launch tower, however he also said that Booster catching would happen much sooner due to SpaceX experience with Falcon 9. An updated mission timeline for regular Starship launches was also shared with the Booster expected to return to the launch site in five minutes and the Ship return in at least ninety minutes.

In answering questions about Starship sending cargo to the surface of Mars Musk believes Starship will land on the surface for a demonstration mission in three to four years but depending on the Earth-Mars transfer window. Musk also said that for a self-sustaining city on Mars, one million tons of cargo would need to be delivered to the surface with the ability to lift five million tons to low Earth orbit. Musk believes this would require over one thousand starship launches per year but is possible for SpaceX to do.

In non-Starship questions, it was revealed the extra-vehicular activity suits for a customer spacewalk mission from Crew Dragon could be adapted for the Moon or Mars for SpaceX and customer use. Musk also stated that Falcon 9 was responsible for eighty percent of the mass to orbit last year and is expected to rise this year and potentially lift up to two thousand five hundred tons to orbit on Falcon 9 next year. It was also suggested that Tesla could work on a Lunar variant of Cybertruck for use on the Moon.

In a closing question, Clay Mowry asked Musk if he could see the International Astronautical Congress being hosted in space in the near future. Musk said he could see it happening within ten years.